I love horror FMs, and I love Mechanists. John D.’s Deep Trouble 2: City Under the Sea combines both in an FM that is a cornucopia of Mechanist goodness and is flavored with System Shock 2 AI horror.
This is a three-part mission campaign, but you can skip the first one. It isn’t horror, and only sets the premise: Garrett, intending to be delivered to a lord’s cellar, finds himself in the cargo hold of a Mechanist submarine, the Swordfish. He escapes from this onto the Cetus Amicus, which was travelling to the Lost City but had to divert course to the Mechanist’s “Central Aqautic Facility.” Things have gone wrong there, and it is the second mission where matters get horrific.
The crux of the mission is the setting itself: an underwater Mechanist complex that has been ravaged by a faulty AI. This AI, “Mother”, has control of the station’s security systems and a group of servant-like combatants known as the “Sisters.” When you begin the second mission, Nasty Surprise, you don’t know what has gone wrong, just that something isn’t right. The bodies of dead Mechanists lie everywhere. These Mechanists weren’t just killed, they were brutalized.
One of the best scenes is in the kitchen and rec room area. A dead body lies face down on stove eyes, a sickening broiling sound coming from beneath it. A dance area, with flashing lights and Climb from Quake II (or The Grinding of the Gears by “Friend Quake”) playing, is littered with corpses and blood stains. Dead bodies can also be found in the freezer, where a ghost scene of the last moments between the two deceased AI plays. Whatever force wrought havoc here, it showed no mercy.
The first objective is to reach the Central Control Room. When there, you see screens with the chilling text “Mother is not pleased.” Not pleased, indeed! Near this area you also hear a Mechanist, who is hiding in a storage closet, get killed while a sadistic feminine AI taunts him. Oh, that’s right: Mother.
Soon after that segment you proceed through a security checkpoint to the third mission in the campaign, called Mother’s Playground. A sense of horror remains, but it is toned down as beautiful Mechanist greatness takes center stage in this part.
Before things went south, this was a complex built for the pride of the Mechanists, and it shows. Being a lover of Mechanist art and architecture, I drool exploring this section. There are gear icons and Mechanist angel statues galore. The chapel room is glorious. It made me want to join the Mechanists, so in awe of their wonder was I as I gazed upwards towards all the heavenly figurines. The main hall of the complex is also delightful. There is custom art throughout, like posters with Mechanist slogans and soda machines with the name “Karras Cola” on them. My favorite is one of Karras pointing towards the viewer that reads: “We Want THEE / For the Builder’s Army.” A highlight in this area is a fountain with gear icons and an angel statue atop. Such…beauty!
I have to remind myself that there’s a faulty AI commanding a team of murderous machines here. It’s hardly a time to be admiring Mechanist art, especially since I’m Garrett. He would only see the smiling face of a fence in any religious artifacts he lays eyes on. That, and the Mechanists are insane, murderous techno-zealots. But their art is so pretty!
Getting back to the mission, I discover that this whole catastrophe was caused by the Commander of the station, Friend Hunday. He didn’t follow the orders of his Elder, the infamous Cavador, not to mess with the AI. Hunday tampered with the AI, meaning no wrong. Well, wrong happened, and he regrets his mistake in his diary. The main goal of the mission becomes shutting off Mother via a process Hunday has written down. Part of this involves obtaining a key from the quarters of another executive, Friend Koressa. Her room is lavish and blessed with a personal escape pod. Garrett observes that her leaving in this as soon as disaster struck was very self-serving. It could have held a few more people. But, as Garrett also remarks, “Heck, I would’ve taken off too!”
There are so many great scenes in this FM series. There are windows that show you the underwater area of the station, such you can look out and see a walkway tunnel that you can actually go and walk through. Then you can look back at where you were before. I love cool stuff like this!
There are a couple exits by which you can swim around outside of it, too. It’s a great underwater building design. The feeling of being trapped in some underwater complex where evil is afoot is thick: and this mission was uploaded in 2004, well before BioShock released, so it didn’t have that as inspiration.*
Dark Assassin may not be mentioned amongst the FM author greats, but he did a superb job designing the Central Aquatic Facility. Especially knowing how frustrating it is to wrangle with water in Dromed, kudos to him. I’d play dozens of missions set in underwater Mechanist facilities.
I also love that this mission emphasizes the horror aspect of the Mechanists, a la Soulforge. Little spider bots walk around – one of them caught me off guard. The Sisters speak of hearing Mother’s “sweet song.” A nursery shows little children that were converted into young servants. There was an element of horror in Thief II’s story: Karras was a madman and his creations were frightening. I love it when an FM author recognizes this. A good Mechanist horror mission – even a good Mechanist mission – is rare in the Thief community, brilliant as they are at Hammerite, Keeper, and Undead missions. Hidden Agenda is the only other one I can think of.
If you want a Mechanist horror romp set underwater, this mission is for you. Go ahead and hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + End to skip the first mission, The Swordfish. It isn’t that remarkable, and only sets the premise of Garrett inadvertently finding himself in a secret Mechanist facility. Get straight to the horror: play Nasty Surprise and Mother’s Playground, and tell me you don’t want more Mechanist horror fun.
*A re-release of these missions came out in 2008, which is the version available to download.
Download Deep Trouble at thiefmissions.com.